Glad To Be In Prison
by Ed Cyzewski
I used to think I knew what it was like to be stuck and frustrated until I started visiting a prison. The men who attended the worship gathering were generally well-behaved inmates who wanted to change. However, they were passing through a trying time that I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand.
If an inmate has any hope of being released, it understandably becomes an irresistible point of fixation. Who wouldn’t want to leave those locked doors and cold tile floors behind in order to hang out with friends and to have some quiet moments alone?
As I met more inmates, my in-laws, who lead a prison ministry in Vermont, pointed out a general trend. Most of the men who are nearing their release experience God and then expect God to set them free from prison. It never happens.
This is when they pass through the trial.
While each man would claim to be in a relationship with God, some of them are still trying to control God and their circumstances. They want to be free from prison more than they want to be free from sin and alive in Christ.
I can understand. They have made their commitment to Christ. What more must they do? Doesn’t God want them out of prison? Well, not exactly.
Every time I’ve been in a tough situation, I’m convinced that God’s role is to bail me out immediately. He doesn’t. At that point I can choose to either fight God or to trust him. It has been astonishing to watch several men pass through this struggle and trust God under some of the most trying circumstances imaginable.
Those who persevere are the ones who can surrender their circumstances to God. They have not only let go of their personal goals, but have also embraced their time in prison as the cross they need to bear. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve heard the men in the prison church say, “I’m glad I’m still in prison.”
This is a difficult process in which their wills are broken. However, once they pass through, they are able to trust God with faith that sometimes takes my breath away.
Those who have yielded their circumstances are able to pray powerfully because they know what it is to only have God. God is their only hope, and when everything else has been stripped away they learn in powerful ways that God is more than able to sustain them.
Whenever I feel stuck or frustrated by my circumstances, I’m reminded of those inmates who have learned to let go of their struggle to be free, trusting that God will take care of them, even if they have to spend more time in prison than they deem right. It’s a faith and perseverance that blows my mind.
When all we have is God, we will find that he is far better than a last resort. God is our best plan. It’s just hard to believe. Sometimes those with nothing but God have the most to teach us.
Ed Cyzewski is a writer and speaker in Eastern Connecticut. He is the author of Coffeehouse Theology and A Path to Publishing. He blogs on Christian belief and practice at www.inamirrordimly.com.